Every chess master was once a beginner. – Irving Chernev
For every argument, there will always be a counter-argument.
It sort of depends. Are you writing a short response (250-450 words)? Or are you writing a longer, multiple-paragraph paper (500 words or more)? Your answer to this question matters, and your your approach to each type of writing will be different.
However, for the sake of getting you some actionable advice that you can use right away, let’s go through the elements of a short persuasive response. I always preach a frame-writing approach to any essay which means that you should attack your writing in manageable frames or chunks.
In the example that follows, we’re taking a pretty typical persuasive essay topic and breaking it into a hook and a thesis statement (which, more or less, compose the essay’s introduction), a research detail, and interpretation followed a counterargument and some rebuttals (this is the body) and a closer (conclusion). If you wanted to break this approach into a formula, it would look like this:
Persuasive Essay = [H + TS + RD + INT + CA + REB1 + REB2 + C]
And if you include these parts in your persuasive essay, you’ll do well every time.
So now, let’s take a look at an actual example:
In a concise, short-response essay (no more than 400 words), take a stand on whether or not you believe public schools should be allowed to require students to wear school uniforms.
Part One: Hook + Thesis Statement
Hook: Recently, principal McGuire announced her intention to institute a school wide uniform policy at our school. Needless to say, the news has created quite a stir; much of it quite negative. I am with those who oppose this policy.
Thesis Statement: A mandatory dress code at school is quite simply a flagrant violation of young people’s’ civil rights.
- Background is provided in a short hook about principal McGuire. The thesis statement clearly states the essayist’s intentions.
Part Two: Research (proof) + Interpretation (analysis)
Research: Afterall, The First Amendment of our United States Constitution states that “Congress cannot pass laws abridging the freedom of speech.”
- The first research detail flows smoothly from the initial bridge and is short and sweet. It cites the first amendment of the Constitution beginning with the sentence starter* “states that”. The source is not cited because the existence of this document is considered common knowledge.
Interpretation: Our forefathers did not intend to have any American citizen’s right to reasonably express him or herself taken away by anybody at any time, no matter their age. This constitutional protection allows us to speak out against politicians who we disagree with. It allows us to write articles that might be controversial or even offensive to some. And it certainly extends to students who might want to wear some loose-fitting jeans or a punk-rock tee shirt. Expressing one’s style, politics or ideas with one’s choice of clothing is no different than doing so with words spoken aloud or written down on paper.
- At six sentences long, this interpretation is a healthy length. It focuses on other areas where freedom of expression is protected by the 1st amendment, then reasons that choice of clothing at school should be similarly protected. The somewhat animated tone befits a persuasive essay.
Part Three: Counterargument and Rebuttal / Your opposition gets his chance to fight back, and you, of course, return the favor.
Counterargument: Of course, there are those such as more conservative parents and school administrators who think that a school dress code is the key to maintaining law and order and a sense of discipline on campus. These critics of free dress may even cite studies demonstrating that schools that instill dress codes have fewer incidents of crime and graffiti.
- In a persuasive essay, always give some air time to the opposition. Like a tennis match, you sometimes have to let the other guy serve. In this case the opposition happens to be conservative parents and school administrators whose chief concern, of course, is law and order.
Rebuttal 1 and 2 (yes, you get two; it’s your essay): However, these small improvements do not make up for the great damaged caused by violating students’ basic civil rights. Hey, young man, give up a few of your rights and we’ll promise you a peaceful environment. It’s the wrong message to send young people. Besides, it isn’t the students’ responsibility to create law and order on campus. This is the responsibility of the teachers, administrators and, to some degree, parents. If a school can’t keep the peace when students are wearing their own choice of fashion, then perhaps the school itself should look more closely at its own policies and practices, and not at some kid’s sagging blue jeans or Yeezy tee shirt with holes in it.
- Rebuttal 1: The first part of the rebuttal strikes back by first mentioning that any gains caused by a dress code would be very modest, and even insignificant when compared to the damage done. In even suggests that such tactics might be a way of tricking kids.
- Rebuttal 2: Part 2 deflects the responsibility away from kids and back towards adults and schools themselves. Together these two rebuttals effectively take the argument back from the opposition and bring it back to the advantage of the essayist. It is done with respect and confidence.
Part 4: Closer / Let’s conclude
Closer: Undoubtedly, despite the opinions of some misguided critics, forcing students to wear school uniforms if they do not wish to is a crass violation of their basic constitutional rights.
- This closer gives mention to the counterargument with the phrase, “despite the opinions of some misguided critics”. The word “misguided” may be a bit strong, but it does make a point. Overall, this closer helps the response feel finished.
Now it’s your turn. Write using frames, and feel free to use this template to create your own persuasive essay.